IRCC introduces a new method to calculate processing times for some applications

A recent announcement from IMigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says the department will now publish anticipated processing times online using prospective processing times.

This is to help applicants predict the time it will take to process their applications.

Updated processing times will be available for several high-volume immigration programs, including:

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A report from the Office of the Auditor General last October noted that it was necessary to change the way processing times are calculated. The report made several recommendations on how IRCC calculates application processing time and communicates this to customers.

Specifically, the report said that “information on processing times for all PR requests should be provided online, taking into account the volume and age of requests already in inventory.”

This update to how processing times are calculated is one of IRCC’s first steps in addressing many of the report’s recommendations. Updated service standards can be expected later this year.

Service standards are the period of time that IRCC considers reasonable to issue a final decision on an application. The service standard varies depending on the type of application. For example, spousal sponsorship applications have a 12-month service standard, while a permanent residency application through an Express Entry program should take no more than six months.

How do prospective processing times work?

IRCC says this method of estimating the time it will take to issue a final decision on an application is based on the total number of applications in the queue and the number of applications the department expects to process.

It notes that it may vary depending on variables, including admission spaces within the annual period. Immigration Tier Planprocessing capacity and seasonal changes in the types of requests received.

Historically, IRCC has estimated processing times based on the amount of time previous applications have taken to complete or issue a final decision. The department says it bases retroactive processing times on how long it has taken to process 80% of applications in the last 6 months for permanent residency programs and 8 or 16 weeks for temporary residency programs.

This method will continue to be applicable for temporary residence applications such as study permits, work permit and visitor visas.

Should you reapply?

IRCC advises customers who have already applied to one of the programs using the new processing time method not to reapply. It says: “If you’ve already applied, you’re closer to the front of the queue. Requests will continue to be processed in the order we receive them and, in most cases, you will not wait longer than the new expected processing time to make a final decision.”

IRCC Current Backlog

IRCC periodically updates the number of applications in inventory and distinguishes between those that are processed within service standards and those that are not. These requests are backlogged.

IRCC aims to process 80% of requests across all lines of business within service standards.

The most recent data, as of March 31, shows that there are currently a total of 2,121,200 applications in inventory. Of them, 1,320,000 are within service standards and the remaining 892,000 are behind.

The department further breaks it down by type of request. For example, there are a total of 746,000 permanent residency applications in inventory. Of them, 440,000 are within service standards and 306,000 are behind.

Temporary residence data (work, study and visitor visas) shows that 538,600 applications were backlogged and 665,400 were within service standards, making a total of 1,204,000 temporary residence applications in inventory.

It is noteworthy that 46% of study permit applications are backlogged. This is not unexpected given recent changes to Canada’s international student program. IRCC now requires all provinces to issue Provincial certification letters (PAL) to all international student applicants accepted into a designated learning institution. The IRCC introduced this change in January and most provinces did not have a system to issue PALs until March.

Of the 262,000 citizenship applications in inventory, 214,000 were within service standards and the remaining 47,400 were backlogged.

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